Teaching Your Dog To Be Happy and Relaxed In The Crate
If you have a dog that is fearful and wont go in the crate, take your time. Place food just inside the door; let your dog reach in for the food. You will want to keep the confidence of your dog high, so resist the temptation to help or force your dog. Go Slow until your dog can confidently go up and eat the food, systematically, put food further and further back in this comfy den. It might take a couple weeks to accomplish this.
Once it is easy to get your dog in and out of the crate, close the door but do not latch it. Feed your dog little pieces of food through the door. Open the door, but as you do so feed your dog pieces of food. You want your dog to wait with the door open. When you are ready say “out” or “release” and let your dog get out.
If your dog did not panic or show distress about having to stay in the crate, start feeding you dog in the crate. At meal times, tell your dog “get it” and toss one piece of food into the crate. After your dog gets in, put your dog’s food in the crate and close the door. Sit right by the crate as your dog eats. When your dog is done with its food and before it vocalizes, open the door and hand your dog pieces of food with the door open to help your dog wait, tell the dog it can get out and let it get out of the crate.
You can expand the amount of time your dog spends in the crate, by putting it in the crate and giving it something wonderful to chew on. Just make sure this is something that cannot harm your dog. You will want to do this after your dog has had a chance to empty its bowels and bladder and has had some exercise. In the beginning, stay close to the crate. As your dog settles down to chew and is having a good time, you can slowly migrate away. If your dog fusses or vocalizes in the crate, do not go towards the crate. You don’t want to reward vocalizing, instead stay where you are or move away. Wait until there are at least 2 minutes of quiet and then go give your dog a piece of food for being quiet. Move away and go back and give food for quiet behavior a couple of times before your begin the procedure for letting your dog out of the crate. The exception to this is if your dog is in a state of panic. Under those circumstances, let your dog out and seek professional help.
Teaching your dog to get in the crate on command
You will want to keep the rules for using a crate in mind as you get your dog accustomed to spending time in the crate in a positive supportive fashion. In addition, I would not start this training exercise until your dog can be happy and relaxed in the crate.
With the door all the way open, let your dog see you toss a piece of food or treat into the crate. Dogs that do not already have a fear will go rushing in for the food. When your dog has eaten the food, toss a piece of food on the floor about 5 feet the door. Then repeat and toss another piece of food into and out of the crate. Continue until you have a dog that is running in and out for the food.
Once it is easy to get your dog in and out of the crate, you can tell your dog “get in” and then toss the food in the crate. Now before letting your dog out, close the door, but do not latch it. Feed your dog little pieces of food through the door. Open the door, but as you do so feed your dog pieces of food. You want your dog to wait with the door open. When you are ready say “out” or “release” and let your dog get out.
The key to having a dog that is happy and relaxed while being crated is to ensure the dog has pleasant experiences while in the crate and to not rush the process for dogs that have some degree of fear or distaste for of this comfy den.